Fears sewage discharges could endanger shellfish industry

Southend’s shellfish industry must be protected from continued discharges of sewage into the city’s waters, councillors have demanded.

This year Surfers Against Sewage have issued a number of warnings to bathers to avoid some of the city’s beaches after Anglian Water allowed raw sewage to be discharged into the water following heavy downpours or during maintenance operations.

At a place scrutiny committee meeting on Monday, Lydia Hyde, Labour councillor for St Laurence Ward, said the city’s shellfish industry must also be protected.

She said: “There has been, around the UK, reports of the shellfish industry being really affected by pollution in the sea. We’ve seen in the north east – huge swathes of mariners and fisherman going further afield because stocks are being wiped out.

“Given that we continue to have such common sewage releases into our waters around Southend, it’s a concern for bathers but it must also be a concern for our shellfish industry.

“What measures are we looking at see about the pollution that is going into the sea around here and are we concerned how that might impact the health of those eating the food from these waters?”

John Lamb, councillor responsible for or regulatory services, said monitoring of water quality is regularly undertaken.

He said: “The shellfish industry is governed by the Kent and Essex Inshore Fisheries. They are always monitoring, not only water sampling, they also go out on the mud and do surveys on the cockles and scientific officers check that.

“Part of that is how the shellfish are processed and that is strictly laid done as well. At the processing plants the shellfish must be processed in certain ways to make sure anything is killed off.

“Always a concern is in fact discharges that come out especially through water companies. They are finding it very difficult at the moment because what you find is the valves which hold the water back they flap about and when they get heavy pressure on them that’s when they release the sewerage because of the heavy rain. That’s when they get an overflow problem.”

He added: “The Environment Agency is regularly carrying out water sampling on our beaches anyway and that’s shared with the fisheries so we make sure our water quality is up to a level and we’re looking at all the different shellfish that come through.”

Leigh fisherman Paul Gilsonsaid he didn’t believe there was a threat to the idustry. He said: “I’m concerned about the hype because this isn’t sewage its run-off. Sewage is discharge a mile and a quarter out at sea. There may be a hint of sewage in some of it but it’s no different than having seals that poo in the water or geese that poo all over the marshes.

“The shellfish is monitored, the cockle industry cooks to such a high standard there’s nothing going to survive that and it’s long way from where the cockles are being harvested.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter